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Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
Bank suspends new 5 notes
New 5 note
The new note is supposed to be more durable
The Bank of England is carrying out further tests on its new 5 note after it was discovered that the serial numbers could be rubbed off.

Banks were asked to stop issuing the notes following about six complaints from members of the public.

Tests already conducted by the Bank of England show that on some notes it is possible to remove both of the serial numbers if the note is rubbed hard.

A spokesman for the Bank said the notes had been rigorously tested before being first issued last Tuesday.

Wiped off

He added that the serial numbers were not a key security feature but merely gave information about the note's origin.
The Bank of England, London
The Bank conducted tests before issuing the note

Before their issue, the new notes were described by the Bank of England's chief cashier Merlyn Lowther as "the most secure five pound note we have ever produced".

The Bank's inquiry was prompted by about half a dozen calls but it did not initially suspend distribution of the new notes.

Insurance broker Steve Hedges, 24, of Formby, Liverpool, told the Daily Mirror the number wiped off in his hands.

"At first the number smudged, then it vanished," he said. "There was no ink left on my hands."

Hologram

The Bank spokesman said an urgent investigation had been launched.

He added: "We did undertake extensive tests before the notes were launched and had no reason to believe there would be any problems."

Those who raised the concerns were told to exchange the notes at a local bank.

The new notes are the same size and colour as the existing note but have extra security features, including a hologram.
Elizabeth Fry on the new 5 note
The notes feature philanthropist Elizabeth Fry

They were made at the Bank's printing works in Debden, Essex, and are supposed to have a longer life span than the current "fivers", which last on average less than one year.

Victorian prison reformer Elizabeth Fry appears on the new note and becomes only the second woman to appear on the back of an English banknote.

Nurse Florence Nightingale has already appeared on the 10 note.

Have you had one of the new 5 notes? Has this problem affected you? Send us your experiences.

Have your say

I've just read this article and tried using a rubber on one of the digits of the vertical blue security code, it started to fade immediately without smudging. If I remember correctly all bank notes are sent through washing machine and dipped in acid to test their durability - how did these pass the test?
Greg, England


It now seems harder to launch a single note in England than a complete new currency in Europe.

Paul, UK
This just reminds me of the way the English press criticised and laughed at the tiny problems encountered when the euro was launched (the coins were poisonous - only not as much as the 1 coins, as it turned out). It now seems harder to launch a single note in England than a complete new currency simultaneously across 12 countries in Europe. What a nice lesson of humility for us!
Paul, UK

I would like to enquire exactly how 'soluble' these security codes are, since, on acquiring one at my local grocers I assumed my friend behind the counter was having a laugh, and proceeded to give what I assumed to be 'play money' to my eighteen month old sister. Unfortunately, she now has the serial number printed in reverse on her forehead. Can anyone suggest anything I could possibly use to remove this? I've tried surgical spirit, and strawberry milkshake, but both have been ineffective.
Margery Hiltenmann, UK

I've got one...the last two digits of the blue vertical number have smudged just from being in my pocket. Collector's item?
Nick Bowman, UK

I've only had one of the new 5 notes so far, and I can't make the slightest impression on its number by rubbing it.
Chris Harvey, UK

Today a customer in front of me at the Chemist's shop, produced a new 5 note. The cashier did not know whether to accept it, and called a supervisor. Before the supervisor arrived, I offered to buy the 5 note from the other customer. He willingly accepted, and I now own a banknote which in time may become a collector's item!
Martin, England


The Bank of England note printing technology is 2 decades out of date.

Bernard Morey, Australia
There's no excuse - we in Australia learned many years ago how to produce forgery-proof, long lasting, colourful and popular bank notes. The Bank of England note printing technology is 2 decades out of date.
Bernard Morey, Australia

Post Offices are a major distributor of the new notes and it is double pension payout for the bank holiday weekend and we have no old notes to give to customers. Any suggestions?!
P J Blackman, England

I didn't even know they were changing! Perhaps the bank should make people more aware...
Dave, UK

Yes, the blue serial number that runs vertically does indeed fade if its rubbed with a normal pencil eraser. I wonder if these notes will be worth anything in years to come?!
Richard, UK

That's cool, if you hold one of these as they will go for a bomb later on.
Jason Vonhaartman, UK


They have quite a premium in terms of collector value.

Chas Downing, England
The problem with the new 5 is easily explained. The bank announced that the note would carry a new coating to prolong the note's life. I believe that the serial numbers and chief cashiers signature are printed on the notes after the main printing. What has probably happened in this case is that these sheets have received the protective coating before rather than after the serial numbers were printed. I think the bank is overreacting, but these problems have occurred in the past. I have a number of notes in my possession with differing serial numbers on the same note, missing signatures etc. They have quite a premium in terms of collector value. Indeed probably the worst thing anyone could do if they have one of the new fivers is to seek to change it at the bank it is likely to appreciate in value to the collector market. I would today pay 10 for any new 5.
Chas Downing, England

I work in a bank and I got a stack of about 50 of these new 5 notes yesterday. I accidentally spilt some of my strawberry milkshake on them, and when I wiped it off the serial numbers and some of the ink came off, completely! It's really hard to tell they're meant to be 5 notes at all, let alone worrying about whether the serial numbers are visible. The ink is simply far too soluble! I hope they get replaced as soon as possible.
Jim Rimbo, England

I've had several new 5 notes since their release and have never had a problem with them.
Mark Hill, UK

It's a Blair conspiracy. He's trying to undermine faith in the pound so he can push his self-serving euro agenda.
Joe Morello, UK/US

I traded in all of my old fivers and picked up the new ones last time I went to the bank. I figured it would be a good way to get them out in the public via my business. Well let me tell you, they have been NOTHING but a headache. A bunch of customers have come back complaining that other businesses won't accept them because they have no serial numbers and they could be faked. And until today the bank has been saying that they could do nothing to replace them without the original serial numbers still intact on the bills. This is ridiculous. Let's just get rid of paper money and coins and turn everything into some form of credit cards.
Joe Dubank, Oxford

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The BBC's John Moylan
"There is a major problem with the note"
See also:

21 May 02 | UK
11 Apr 02 | UK
07 Nov 00 | UK
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